2015 Opportunity Agenda: Ensuring Justice in Perception and In Reality

January 17, 2015

From the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today presented the fourth part of his "2015 Opportunity Agenda" – a legislative proposal to protect the safety and rights of all of New York’s college and university students. The proposal would codify a sexual assault prevention and response policy previously adopted by the State University of New York, applying the provisions to all colleges and universities – public and private – in New York State.

The SUNY policy was one of the first of its kind in the nation and creates a safer learning and living environment for students by outlining specific and consistent expectations of safety and responsibility. All 64 SUNY campuses adopted the policy, which can be found in full here, in December 2014. The City University of New York system has also adopted a similar policy to combat sexual assaults and campus response at all CUNY schools.

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, 11 colleges and universities in New York are under investigation for mishandling sexual assault complaints.

Though it is generally accepted that sexual assault on college campuses is under-reported and that the problem is larger than the numbers suggest, the available numbers are daunting:

  • According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. In that time, there were 365 forcible sex offenses reported by campuses in New York State, 72 of which were in New York City;
  • One in five women experiences rape during college, according to the National Institute of Justice;
  • At least 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career, according to statistics compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault;
  • Fewer than 5% of rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials, according to the National Institute of Justice;
  • It’s estimated that in 80-90% of cases, the victim knows her assailant, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN);
  • Nineteen percent of women in college and six percent of men in college will be victims of attempted or completed sexual assault in the course of their undergraduate careers, according to a 2007 study funded by the National Institute of Justice;
  • College women are at higher risk of sexual assault than their non-college-bound peers, according to the National Institute of Justice.

The Governor’s legislation will extend the SUNY policy and protections to colleges statewide and ensure that all college students in the State, more than 1 million in total, are protected with comprehensive and uniform procedures and guidelines. Once law, this policy will go far to protect more students in New York.

The legislation will include:

  • A statewide definition of affirmative consent, defining consent as a clear, unambiguous, and voluntary agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity;
  • A statewide amnesty policy, to ensure that students reporting incidents of sexual assault or other sexual violence are granted immunity for certain campus policy violations, such as drug and alcohol use;
  • A Sexual Violence Victim/Survivor Bill of Rights, which campuses will be required to distribute to all students in order to specifically inform sexual violence victims of their legal rights and how they may access appropriate resources. The Bill of Rights clearly states that students are given the right to know they can report sexual assaults to outside law enforcement, including the State Police;
  • Comprehensive training requirements for administrators, staff, and students, including at new student orientations.

In addition to announcing the SUNY policy last year, Governor Cuomo launched a new website that provides important information regarding sexual assault prevention and response on all college campuses in a user-friendly format for students, parents, administrators and law enforcement. Specifically, the website provides resources for students to learn how they can protect themselves and seek help when necessary, and access data regarding all sexual assault and violent crimes reported on all college campuses that operate in the State of New York. The data is reported to the United States Department of Education. The website can be accessed at http://www.campuscrime.ny.gov.


About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.

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Holly Liapis
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